Table for Three, Please

Looking beyond the two-person relationship

| June 2004

As the debate over gay marriage continues, coupling has become a hot topic for those on both sides of the issue. Whether asserting the right for a same-sex couple to wed or maintaining that marriage is between a man and woman, most agree on the fact that marriage is meant for two. In her article, 'Table for Three, Please,' Ellen Ann Lindsey looks to expand this premise for life-long love. Lindsey maintains that it is a troubling myth, stating, 'It asserts that, because of fate, or some other unseen force, there is only one person out there for each of us.' Lindsey's experience as one member of a long-term three-person relationship contradicts the notion that coupling is the height of romantic love.

When Lindsey's friendship with a married couple became sexual, all three attempted to maintain the two-person status quo. 'At various points, each of us threatened to leave so that the other two could be together,' she remembers. 'We were afraid. There was no blueprint for the type of relationship we were contemplating.' Living in a society where three-person Valentine's Day dinners are unheard of and three-way relationships are seen as novelty sexual encounters made imagining such a relationship -- much less participating in one -- almost impossible.

In the end, Lindsay and her partners simply decided to try to make their relationship work. And it did. 'We have overcome the jealousies and insecurities that plagued us in the early days and have stayed together longer -- and more happily -- than many of the 'committed' couples we have known.' According to Lindsey, their success is due in part to the freedoms that an equal three-person relationship can provide. In addition to sexual freedom, Lindsay and her partners share housework, child-rearing, and household income.

Living outside the boundaries of a traditional heterosexual and homosexual relationship hasn't been easy. Lindsay and her partners have lost married, single, gay, and straight friends who could not accept their relationship. The three have worked to legally protect Lindsey's inheritance and guardianship rights; something that society may never recognize in marriage. In this respect, she has low expectations. 'I don't hope for a world where three-way marriages are the norm.' Instead, Lindsey hopes to broaden the definition of marriage and long-term romantic love. 'I wish for the word 'marriage' to apply to lesbians, gay men and bisexuals...and to trios, quartets, quintets and so forth, instead of just duos.'
--Anastasia Masurat

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